Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Traveling Trails and Back Roads

With gas prices continuing to stay relatively low and the cost of air travel continuing to climb (think baggage fees etc. plus the hassle of airport security with children) many families are turning to road travel for their annual vacations.

Beyond the typical visits to amusement parks and well-known landmarks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, families can discover some amazing places that also help keep travel costs down.

A travel writer I know calls it “traveling the black lines on a map.” She encourages folks to “take the next exit off the interstate,” and find those lesser known gems that locals have been enjoying for years. Taking her advice can open up a whole new world of adventure on your next road trip.

If you have the time (and your kids can manage time in the car) another fun road trip idea is following a trail. The National Parks Service has some wonderful booklets available (free of charge) that explain the history and current location of routes including the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. You can also choose to travel the route of Lewis & Clark and their Corps of Discovery (Auto Club has a great route mapped out that members can download for free.) Visitor Centers along the way will help keep kids engaged and learning in a fun, hands-on way.
EJ receiving his Junior Ranger badge from a friendly ranger
If you prefer something a little more modern, a journey along Route 66 or the Lincoln Highway might be more your style. Both routes feature reminders of days gone by when our picnic lunches were wrapped in wax paper and sodas were icy cold in a glass bottle. There are websites catering to travelers of both old routes. You can even earn a Coast-to-Coast Award from the Lincoln Highway Association after completing the historic trek.

Whichever road you choose for your next family vacation, be sure to allow enough time to “stop and smell the roses.” Be flexible in your schedule so if your kids spot an ice cream shop (shaped appropriately like a giant soft serve cone) you have time to stop and enjoy a treat. If you can’t make it to one of the spots on your list because you ran out of time, think of it as a reason to start planning your next visit to the area.

Enjoying some local flavors in Georgia...the peach ice cream was delicious
Road trips (and travel in general) can be stressful for little ones so try to stick to routines when you can. If you normally share a bedtime story, continue to do so whether in an RV, tent, cabin, or hotel room. Our kids have always liked to bring their own pillows from home. They use them in the car for napping as well as having something familiar at bedtime. If yours are used to having a nightlight at home it’s a good idea to pack one along as well.

If you are staying in hotels, it’s nice to book one with a kitchen. Whether you have kids with food allergies (like mine) or simply picky eaters (our grandson) being able to cook your own meals is a plus. I even bring along a slow cooker if we’ll be staying in one place for a while. There is nothing better than coming back to the room after a long day of exploring and having supper ready and waiting. (The slow cooker meal kits from Walmart are terrific time savers too and so easy to get ready in the morning.)

Our kitchen was well stocked in preparation for Hurricane Mathew on a recent trip 
Our family has traveled a lot this year (can I use this as the reason I’ve been so bad at posting to my blog?) and visited many states. Each one of them is different and has something special to offer. Another big plus is the time we get to spend together as a family, enjoying these places together.